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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  June 9, 2014 2:00pm-2:31pm EDT

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that. why now to the senate here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order, and the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. king of glory and peace, your love sustains us. each day you give us your peace and joy, providing rest to the weary and renewing the strength of those exhausted
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by life's trials. in your compassion, lead our lawmakers to your desired destination. when they cry to you for help, be their strength and shield. lord, you are peace, joy, gladness, gentleness, beauty, and truth. be our protector, guardian, and defender from this time forth even forever more. we pray in your sovereign name. amen the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the
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pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i move to proceed to calendar number 409, s. 2432, the warren college affordability legislation. the president pro tempore: the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to the consideration of s. 2432, a bill to amend the higher education act of 1965 to provide for the refinancing of certain federal student loans and for other purposes. mr. reid: mr. president, following my remarks and those of the republican leader, if any, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 5:30 this evening. at 5:30 there will be three cloture votes on nominations of united states district judges. lauck of virginia, sorokin of massachusetts, and boulware of nevada. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that chrisie johnson an
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intern to senator heinrich's office be granted privileges to the floor for today's session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: mr. president, there is a lot of sadness when i come to the floor today following the tragic event that took place in las vegas yesterday. i talked to the sheriff this morning, sheriff gillespie. two police officers were having lunch at a pizza restaurant on a boulevard in las vegas and two people walked in, shot them both and killed them, took their guns and their badges, put some kind of a flag over them representing whatever they represented, and walked across the street to wal-mart and killed another
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innocent woman and then killed themselves. all the details aren't available, madam president, but there's no question that these two were murdered in cold blood for no reason other than the weirdness, craziness of this couple. so all of nevada mourns the loss of our neighbors, our friends, in the case of officers beck and soldo, alyn beck and igor soldo. my sympathy go to the family members and their loved ones. you know, these things hit very close to home. many years ago when i practiced law, i brought a fine young man into my law firm named claude
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sobell. he has been with me all these years. he ran my washington office, went to become dean of a law school. he's now an attorney for a hotel chain in tennessee. he's helped me all these years fill out my financial disclosures. his nephew, his wife's mom's son was one of the police officers killed. and his daughter, claude sobell's daughter, works here in washington. i talked to him this morning. cousin killed. so the pain people go through for these unnecessary tragedies, these senseless shootings, it's awful. so no words can undo the unspeakable act which claimed the life of these two men.
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they had families, wives, children. but their families now that not only is nevada grieving, madam president, but all of america's grieving. so my thanks go to the law enforcement officers who were called to in after the killings to that scene and the scene across the street, putting their life in peril at every step of the way. it seems, madam president, that people respond to these -- our police, law enforcement officers respond to these scenes every day. santa barbara, seattle, going on with the names of cities where people were just shot.
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i so appreciate the law officers every day putting their lives on the line. madam president, we can't take for granted here in the senate the people looking after us. there are people out there who are so evil who try every day to do harm to not only the presiding officer, not only me, but people who work in these buildings, the tourists that come to these buildings. so if there's any complaint about having too much security, come to me; i'll try to explain to people why we need it. so without elaborating on this, my deepest sympathies are with the families of those who died. we in congress, we do need to put in place legislation that
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helps prevent these deranged, these weird, these evil people who carry out such savage acts of violence. background checks so is that people who are criminals, who are deranged can't buy a gun. the american people are depending on us to pass legislation to prevent gun violence and safeguard communities, schools and families. and there is not a single senator that i know of that says let's get rid of all the -- let's make sure people don't have guns. we're not saying that. this isn't what we're saying, madam president. i say that not to the presiding officer. around the country. so i want the record to be completed there, and i'll move
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to another subject. i ask consent that they appear in different places in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: we have a lot to do this week, confirm some people as we need to do. we're still way behind. but this, tonight, for example, senator sheldon whitehouse, the junior senator from rhode island, has been a trooper. he has been so enthused and so invigorated. he's traveled the country alerting the american people to the evils -- strike that word. strike that word. the dangers of what's happening to our world regarding climate. he has been a one-man show. now he tonight is going to work with a number of senate democrats in highlighting the need for congressional action to fight this climate change.
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i applaud him, madam president, for his work on this issue. he has focused like no other about our changing world. the care of our nation's veterans is another issue that we need to talk about, and hope we'll talk about that today also. last thursday senator bernard sanders, chairman of the senate veterans' affairs committee; and senator john mccain announced a bipartisan agreement on legislation to address patient wait times at v.a. hospitals. the details of the agreement are not in writing yet. at least they weren't a few minutes ago. they're being drafted. the legislation is a comprehensive approach to ensure that veterans are getting the care they deserve. this agreement is very important to all nevadans, to all americans, and of course it's extremely important to countless veterans and their families. recently i with america, and
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this body, was shocked to learn that v.a. hospitals all over the country -- in nevada in particular -- were affected by the dangerous wait times for patients. that is really unacceptable. this legislation worked on by senator mccain is not going to solve all the problems that exist, but it is certainly putting the v.a. on the right track. this bipartisan agreement aims to improve accountability throughout the entire veterans administration, holding v.a. employees and officials responsible for poor job performances. one of the things that we've learned is that they covered up a lot of these wait times. why? by doing that, they would get bonuses at the end of the year. so that will stop. this legislation will take big steps in addressing flexibility of health care in the v.a. institutions nationwide. the agreement will allow
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veterans facing long delays in health care to seek outside of the v.a. private doctors offices, community health centers, military hospitals, and other places that sanders and mccain are now working on. their legislation will expedite hiring v.a. doctors and nurses and authorize 26 new medical facilities nationwide. in addition to improving access and accountability throughout the veterans administration, this bipartisan agreement also addresses other issues such as g.i. eligibility for surviving spouses and in-state tuition for veterans enrolling in colleges and universities. much will depend on the details of the final bill, but senators sanders and mccain put together an agreement which is good for americans and veterans in our country. i commend them.
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i commend especially senator sanders for his leadership on this issue on work on veterans care. it is a clear indication how much he values this nation's service members. and john mccain, we could not have a more exemplary person dealing with v.a. health care as a result of his having spent long periods of time in v.a. facilities around the country when he was recovering from his ordeal in vietnam. so i appreciate him in many different ways, but today on this. for his labor in bringing both sides to the table to get something done on behalf of our veterans. i look forward to this legislation coming to the floor, and i would be happy to schedule a vote on it as quickly as possible. american veterans are depending on us completing this legislation, showing that our veterans are getting the care and resources they are promised by a grateful nation. again, madam president, i ask consent that the next statement i make appear at a separate
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place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: madam president, i have to be honest with you. last night i was flipping around to the n.b.a., the game of the week, red sox were playing detroit, the tony awards were going on. but also miss u.s.a. was going on, and i have to acknowledge i watched a little bit of each. not a lot of each, but i watched them all. i'm disappointed that i kind of caved in in watching that final of the miss u.s.a. contest because miss nevada won. and i'd like to have seen that. i placed a call to her and i'll talk to her as soon as she gets out of the clouds, where i'm sure she is now. but i congratulate the newly crowned miss u.s.a. and that is nia sanchez. what a story she has, madam president.
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this woman was homeless, spent a good part of her young days in a shelter. she's an exceptional nevadan. she's gifted beyond her physical beauty. she holds a fourth degree black belt in tae kwon do, she is a certified instructor in the martial arts. when she is not practicing this tae kwon do in her studio, she has her own studio. she has volunteered at a place we have in nevada called shade tree which is a place for abused women. we're proud of shade tree. so i along with all nevada congratulate miss u.s.a., anita sanchez, on her well-deserved victory. i wish her the very best as she pursues the crown of miss universe and as she undertakes her duties as a global ambassador.
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it appears there is no one here rushing to get to the floor, so i ask the chair would announce the business of the day. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 5:30 p.m., with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. mr. reid: i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: thank you, madam president. last year, something happened in
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washington, d.c., that most of us in the senate and most americans would like to see more of. the president and the republican house of representatives, and a bipartisan group here in the senate, worked together to reform the student loan program. it's a lot of money, it affects a lot of students. every year, the federal government loans about $100 billion to students who attend colleges and universities around this country. we have 6,000 of those higher education institutions. in addition to that, -- in addition to those loans which, of course, students pay back, the federal government grants about $33 billion or $34 billion each year in pell grants and up to $5,600 which students may keep. so last year, we were in this
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usual pattern that has developed around the united states congress of student loans becoming a semi annual political stunt. every two years before an election, one party or the other would show up with a student loan proposal to try to appeal to students and hoping that students and others in america would reward them with their votes. last year, we changed that for new student loans because the president and the republican house of representatives and the democratic senate in a bipartisan way worked together to reform the student loan program by taking a market-priced system, put it on top of the $100 billion or so that we loan every year and said to the students we'll give you the benefit of that. you don't have to wait for
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congress to engage in its semi annual political stunt so that you will know what your loan is, and the result of that, madam president, was that for undergraduate loans for students, which are 85% of all loans, because the interest rate at the time was lower, we were able to cut in half the interest rate on student loans for undergraduate students in america without raising taxes and without raising the debt. that result got an overwhelming bipartisan support here in the senate. it had the strong support of the chairman of the senate education committee, the help committee. senator harkin, i supported it, as did many others. and it worked the way the senate is supposed to work. this body is for the purpose of taking an important issue which student loans is, having an extended debate on it, which we
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did, until we came to a consensus, which we did, and then coming to a result that the american people, of which they could approve, and we did that as well. now, this week we're seeing something entirely different. senate democrats would interrupt a serious discussion that's going on in the senate education committee about reauthorizing the higher education act, which was first enacted in 1965. senator harkin is our chairman, the senator from iowa. i'm the ranking republican on that committee. we have had ten hearings. we have been hard at work. we have had some terrific testimony, some very good ideas about the student loan program, about a whole variety of issues affecting higher education, and we're doing what you're supposed to do in the united states senate. we're trying to come to a conclusion so that we could recommend in a bipartisan way to this full body what to do about
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higher education for the next several years, including student loans. yet, all of a sudden we hear that senate democrats want to show up on the floor with a partisan political stunt that interrupts the work of the senate education committee, and here is what they would do. they would raise individual income taxes. they would raise the debt. and they would, based upon data from the congressional research service, give some former students with old student loans a $1 a day federal subsidy to pay off their loan. now, let me go back over the terms of this proposal just so everybody has it in mind. this is the main thing, $1 a day. that's the benefit. doesn't do anything for current students. doesn't do anything for new students. for some former students, according to the congressional budget office -,

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